Own the Process

I spent a lot of time recently looking at note taking apps. I read all about “building a second brain” and created a whole load of processes to support doing that. I had this idea that I could use those same processes to support writing fiction. It was all setup and working and I stuck with it for about two days before I threw it all in the bin.

The thing is, and this is a truth that I’ve been fighting against for probably five or more years, note taking isn’t naturally how I work. Sure, I can do it but I’m fighting against my inclination.

Digital tools work in a specific way and if you use them that’s the way you have to work. As I found, just having the app creates a requirement to do a process. I had a note taking app, so I needed to take notes.

Before I started down the digital note taking route, I was keeping a paper notebook in my pocket, but I didn’t use it very often and I thought that was proof that paper notebooks didn’t work for me. But the truth is, I used it the amount that I naturally take notes without being prompted. When I switched to a digital system it created an artificial use requirement.

It took me a long time to realise that I don’t need to constantly be taking notes and that I shouldn’t feel guilty when days go by with nothing new being added. I have never had trouble coming up with ideas for stories so there is no need to build this system.

Ending a Story

I’m in the final act of a new novel. When I was writing first drafts on a computer this stage always felt like a race. Both because I wanted to be done with the story and because I have never felt very comfortable writing endings. The result usually felt very rushed and always took a lot of work in edits to improve it. The ending was where I would add the most words.

I have been writing first drafts longhand for a while now, but this is the first novel. The process of writing longhand means that I am forced to go more slowly and think about what I’m writing. I’m hoping it means that the end result is better.

But that’s not the main benefit I’m finding by writing longhand. As far as I’m concerned the best part of doing it this way is how much more I’m enjoying it. I feel more connected to the story and I think that’s going to mean the story is better.

Kindle Whispersync

I’m probably really late to the party on this but over the weekend I downloaded a new book on the Kindle (Soul Music by Terry Pratchett) and decided to download the audiobook as well. I’d seen the promotion a few times in the past but for some reason never given it much thought. Now I can’t believe what I’ve been missing.

I have two young children so don’t get a lot of time during the day to sit down and read, but on a Sunday there are chores that need doing. Normally I listen to music or podcasts but yesterday I listened to my book and now I am 25% through it.

This feels game changing. I can easily see myself doing this a lot more, especially where the cost to add the audiobook is as low as £2.99 as it was for this one.

At the same time though I am torn. Amazon isn’t the kind of company I want to throw a lot of support behind, which is one of the reasons that I keep selling my books wide, even though I could probably make more by going exclusive. But this service is something that I don’t think anyone else is offering. Even on Kobo, where they sell digital books and audiobooks, I am not aware that they sync up.

If other retailers are going to compete with Amazon then this is the kind of thing they need to look at, but not just this. It’s crazy that Amazon, who almost have a monopoly on the eBook market, are the ones to innovate in this way. It’s the kind of service that I would switch to access.

One Simple Trick To Reduce Internet Use

Sometimes I think I’m not really cut out for modern life. Particularly instant access to the internet. It’s one of the reasons I prefer to write with pen and paper rather than directly onto a screen.

I have tried loads of things to reduce the amount of time I spend online. I have used all the popular apps with limited success. There is only one thing that really works for me:


Here’s how I do it: Every morning I plan out my day by taking a page in my notebook and splitting it in four. Then at the bottom of each quarter I put a task called no surf and a number of minutes next to it. Today that was 64, 65, 66 and 67. I already have a timer set on my phone for the end of each quarter, which over the course of a work day are two hours each. At the beginning of each quarter I start a timer (for 64, 65, 66 or 67 minutes). The agreement I have made with myself is that until that timer goes off, I won’t use the internet.

It’s a low tech solution but the crazy thing is that it actually works.

Not Giving Up

The genius thing that we did was, we didn’t give up.

– Jay-Z

I have been thinking about this quote a lot recently. I think it is worth considering. I’m trying to make it as an author and, to be totally honest, I haven’t had a lot of success. I have been publishing on and off for the last seven years and I’m still nowhere near being able to support my family with it.

Honestly, I have considered giving up. I have even decided to give up, but somehow I keep coming back to it.

It seems that writing is something that I can’t give up. I don’t want to give it up.

There are things I can do differently and I’m working on those. I don’t know if they will have any impact, but I will try them anyway. If they work then good, if they don’t then I will just carry on.

The trick, I think, is not to do it because of some theoretical external reward. I might never be able to make a full time living as an author. It would be great, but it’s not the reason I’m writing these stories. I’m writing them because I enjoy the process and as long as I continue to enjoy it I will keep going.

Catching up on new releases

Long time no speak. Things have been pretty busy behind the scenes here but I am getting everything back under control. I have spent some of that time getting my releases for the rest of the year organised (as well as some new writing which I am very excited about, but more on that another time). Some of them are available now the rest will be out November and December.

The Vampire Next Door

It was supposed to be a fresh start but it would be their end

Adam and Debbie moved to a new house because they wanted a fresh start. They thought they would be happy there but they could not have predicted what would become of them. Until they arrived, they didn’t even think vampires were real.

Available NOW from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

The Forgotten

He came to the city for a better life. His parents came to find out what happened to him.

Harlan Potts has the answers but do they want to hear them? Harlan knows that what he has to tell them may break their hearts but they have paid him to do a job and he is a man of his word. No matter what the cost, he intends to tell them the truth.

Available NOW from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

Double Feature

Imagine you could hear people’s thoughts. Donna Stone doesn’t have to imagine. For most of her life she has done her best to ignore what other people are thinking until one day she can’t. She is the only one who knows what they are planning and if she doesn’t stop them no one will.

A man stands on a hill. He has a secret that no one will ever believe. He is torn between telling a reporter everything and risking the trouble that may follow and wanting to know what her reaction will be. Whatever he decides it may already be too late to do anything about it.

Available NOW from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

Tales from the Shadows Volume 1

Strange things lurk in the shadows and not all of them remain there

Tales from the Shadows is a collection of thirteen thrilling short stories totalling more than 100,000 words.

Available NOW from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

Tales from the Shadows Volume 2

Come walk in the shadows with me and see what horrors I will show you

Tales from the Shadows Volume 2 is a collection of fourteen thrilling short stories totalling more than 100,000 words.

Available on NOVEMBER 2nd. Pre-order now from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

Four Stories Tall

Four stories to haunt your nightmares

Four Stories Tall is a collection of four thrilling novellas totalling more than 100,000 words.

Available on DECEMBER 7th. Pre-order now from:

Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Other

P.S. You might also notice that my website looks a bit different now. I am still playing around with designs so if you have any thoughts on the direction let me know.


I didn’t expect everything to change this weekend. Least of all did I expect it to happen while I was watching Jay & Silent Bob Reboot but that’s kind of what happened.

I would never have described myself as a Kevin Smith fanboy. I mean I liked his films and, back when I was at college planning to become a film maker, I was inspired by his career which at the time had gone from making Clerks for next to no money to making Dogma which I absolutely loved and was one of the things (along with His Dark Materials) that showed me you could use religion in stories and not worry about who you offended.

I was at college when Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back was released and maybe that had something to do with it because there’s no better way to realise how much time has passed than by seeing a fully grown adult playing one of the main characters who was playing a baby in the first film.

But that’s not the revelation I had. That’s more like a description of the comfortable nostalgia I felt while I was watching the film.

And the film was a catalyst for change rather than a revelation itself, the final straw in something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. It seems a lot more obvious now that I’m writing these words, but I think that for a long time I was blind to it. It might seem like a dumb thing to say, but it was important to me, so I am going to give it its own line. I realised that:

I have been putting much more effort into trying to convince myself that I am a writer, than to actually writing.

It was all the other shit that I was doing that seemed like the kind of thing a writer would do but wasn’t actually “the work”. It was stuff that I know other writers do (and probably get a lot of value out of, but we’re not all the same) and knowing that I did it as well made me feel like I was a writer as well. All the while ignoring the simple fact that the ONLY thing that makes someone a writer is doing the actual writing!

So things have changed in my head now. After watching Jay & Silent Bob Reboot on Saturday night I read all of Kevin Smith’s Tough Shit on Sunday and, apart from some now very awkward references to Harvey Weinstein, that book really solidified things for me. The way I think about all of this has changed and inevitably that means that the stuff I do is going to change. More writing, less of the stuff that only made me feel like a writer.


My oldest son, Jude, is six years old and has global development delays. He doesn’t speak. Which I only mention because it’s relevant to some of what follows.

Jude is very quick to pick up routines and habits. If I wear the same top a couple of days in a row it becomes something he expects to see me wearing. If I’m not wearing it but have left it somewhere he can reach then he will quite often pick it up and bring it over to me. He also likes routines and habits because they make him feel secure and that he knows what’s going to happen.

We try to use this to our mutual advantage. So, for example, there are specific songs that I sing him while he’s having his teeth brushed, when he’s having his pajamas put on, when he’s having his hair washed, etc. It took me a long time to figure this out because the actual song doesn’t matter, it just needs to be the same one every time. I am now consciously using this technique to make things better for both of us.

Which brings me to my next thought and something that I am putting into practice: using the same technique on myself.

I’m not singing songs to myself but I have used Apple Music to create some playlists for specific activities like writing and working. I already had one for running, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to do the same for other activities. Partly that was because I usually prefer to write in silence, but in a house full of noise that’s not really possible, so a soundtrack of music without vocals is possibly the next best thing.

It’s still early days for this, but I know it works for running and I know that it works for Jude, so I’m hoping for similar results in the other areas of my life where I’m trying it.

Looking Ahead

On Sunday I was out running. I set myself the goal of doing 10K, which, after a couple of months of only running 5K’s, I was worried about. I set out, not sure that I could manage it and in the end I did. What helped immensely was that I stopped thinking about running the whole distance. I looked at the road ahead of me and focused on getting about ten metres ahead. And it occurred to me that there’s a lesson to be learned there.

When I run a 5K I can hold the whole thing in my head: I can think about the complete distance and still get through it, but I don’t seem able to do the same with a 10K. Which isn’t to say that I’m not capable of running a longer distance, physically I am capable but not mentally. So is the same true in other areas of life? I think so.

I can sit down and write every day, that much I can visualise, but I can’t conceptually publish a book when I’m staring at a blank page.

It’s a difficult balancing act I think. With running I had to hold the aim of running a 10K somewhere in my mind, in the same way that when I’m writing I hold the aim of publishing a story, but that wasn’t actually what I was doing. When I was running I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other. When I’m writing I focus on putting the next sentence down.

And I think that focus is the key here. What we chose to focus on can make a big difference. If you choose to focus on the biggest thing your mind can conceptualise then you could look at all the small achievements that go towards that as nothing. And at the same time you might find that it limits what you actually achieve. If the biggest thing I could view in one go was a 5K then maybe I would never run a 10K. It’s not a limiting belief in the same way as thinking ‘I can’t do X‘ but it might have the same impact.

Which is why habits are so important. I have the habit of writing every day, that’s all I need to think about when I’m sitting down.


Yesterday we had a bit of a clear out at home and I dedicated the bottom drawer in my bedside table as a charging station. It is where all of my most used electronic devices now live (the ones which are used less often are in a plastic tub under the bed). Once I’d finished setting it up I started to think about what I was going to get out and when. Some of it is obvious: I will get my headphones out when I want to listen to music, but others not so much.

It occurred to me that the default was that I would have certain things with me all the time, or at least within easy reach. My phone being the main culprit there. But with a new default (the bottom drawer) I started to think about what that was going to mean when I was working. Which led me to realise how many potential disruptions I was surrounding myself with.

Old Count of disruptions at work

  1. Personal Phone: Messages
  2. Personal Phone: Phone calls
  3. Personal Phone: Whatsapp
  4. Apple Watch: Messages
  5. Apple Watch: Phone calls
  6. Apple Watch: Stand reminders
  7. Work Phone: Messages
  8. Work Phone: Phone calls
  9. Work Computer: Email
  10. Work Computer: Google Hangouts messages
  11. Work Computer: Google Hangouts calls
  12. Work Computer: Jabber

Which doesn’t even cover the things that might not send me messages to disrupt me but that I might just pick up and check on my phone. It’s a crazy amount of things that could be breaking my concentration.

A brief aside – I have been struggling to decide what to do with my Apple Watch for some time. It doesn’t really fit in with my lifestyle to have a small square strapped to my wrist. But at the same time it’s very useful for tracking my workouts and as a silent alarm so I don’t wake up the whole house in the morning. It seemed like a waste to only use it for those things while it was always out, but now it’s in a drawer I don’t feel the same responsibility to use it all the time.

There are some distractions that I can’t do anything about. My boss wants me to be available on instant messenger so I have to have that running, but I considered my options and came up with this:

New Count of disruptions at work

  1. Work Phone: Messages
  2. Work Phone: Phone calls
  3. Work Computer: Email – but I keep it paused using Boomerang so it’s not constantly disrupting me
  4. Work Computer: Google Hangouts messages
  5. Work Computer: Google Hangouts calls
  6. Work Computer: Jabber

This means that I am using my computer to listen to music, but that’s not a big problem and certainly worth doing to halve the number of disruptions I have to deal with in a day.